Ryan Lowe's Blog ryanlowe.ca

Ottawa, Canada

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December 07, 2004
Bell Mobility Off the Hook

This is an update to my original post and first follow-up.

After entire evening of going through my cell phone and VISA bills and loading the data into a spreadsheet to figure out what the hell happened, I can conclude this: Bell Mobility and I are financially even.

Nevermind the fact that I've had to waste my time worrying about this for the last four months but it's been relatively minor. Bell Mobility has my VISA information and could effectively bill whatever they wanted. Apparently VISA won't let you block Bell's charges either, you'd have to cancel the card. Some people are being overbilled hundreds of dollars. I'm not sure what percentage of people actually had large billing errors.

In a nutshell, I was double-billed for a month and the credited for the overbilling later. They also sent me a mysterious refund cheque which they then charged me for on the next bill, effectively cancelling it out. Combine all of that together and it was a big mess. Six months later it's all sorted out again.

Bell Mobility really needs to get whacked with a customer-care cluestick. It's not cool to leave your customers in the dark when you're having billing problems. I don't want to have to hear about it on CBC news, I want to hear it from the company. I want to know as soon as possible, and when you expect the problem will be dealt with. In other words I want to be treated like a human being instead of an account number. I didn't get one letter from Bell explaining the billing errors, I had to call the service number to find out. Of course they probably aren't contractually obligated to notify me at all, but that's what seperates great companies from letter-of-the-contract-following companies. I really appreciate when companies go the extra mile.

The good thing about all of this is that I entered the minutes I used each month into the spreadsheet and I realised I'm definitely not on the right cell phone plan. I'll probably get a new phone and a new plan, and carefully consider whether or not I want to stick with Bell Mobility. I've heard the other cell phone service companies aren't much better...

As software engineers, we can look at this train wreck of a deployment and learn from it. This is obviously not the way to do it. Bell's lucky they could recover from the billing errors (or have they?) but nevertheless a botched software deployment can really hurt your business' reputation. They have my sympathy as a software engineer in that I can appreciate how complicated an upgrade like this would have been, but as a customer I felt alienated.

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